What would it feel like if your spaceship were to venture too close to the black hole lurking at the center of the Milky Way? According to astrophysicist Tyson, director of New York City's Hayden Planetarium, size does matter when it comes to black holes, although the chances of your surviving the encounter aren't good in any case. Tyson takes readers on an exciting journey from Earth's hot springs, where extremophiles flourish in hellish conditions, to the frozen, desolate stretches of the Oort Cloud and the universe's farthest reaches, in both space and time. Tyson doesn't restrict his musings to astrophysics, but wanders into related fields like relativity and particle physics, which he explains just as clearly as he does Lagrangian points, where we someday may park interplanetary filling stations. He tackles popular myths (is the sun yellow?) and takes movie directors most notably James Cameron to task for spectacular goofs. In the last section the author gives his take on the hot subject of intelligent design. Readers of Natural History magazine will be familiar with many of the 42 essays collected here, while newcomers will profit from Tyson's witty and entertaining description of being pulled apart atom by atom into a black hole, and other, closer-to-earth, and cheerier, topics. 9 illus. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
This essay collection was originally published over 11 years in Natural History magazine. Professional astrophysicist Tyson (director, New York City's Hayden Planetarium) talks here mostly about the cosmos as seen by contemporary science, also touching on the history of science. He demonstrates a good feel for explaining science in an intelligible way to interested lay readers; his rather rakish sense of humor should aid in making the book enjoyable. The two concluding chapters address the relationship between science and religion (Tyson is forthright in arguing that "intelligent design" is not science). Because some of the essays concern overlapping topics, certain brief sections might seem repetitious for those reading the volume straight through, but this does not detract significantly from the overall value of the book. Recommended for public and undergraduate college libraries.-Jack W. Weigel, formerly with the Univ. of Michigan Lib., Ann Arbor Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
A collection of the author's astronomy columns from Natural History. Astrophysicist Tyson (Origins, 2004, etc.), director of the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium, groups his essays into several broad categories. The first, "The Nature of Knowledge," includes pieces on how science has grown because of extensions to our senses via instruments that collect data none of us could otherwise obtain; one essay shows what can be learned by measuring and making calculations from a stick poked into the ground. "The Knowledge of Nature" looks at basic astronomical facts: the planets, the asteroids, the points where gravity holds an object in orbit. "Ways and Means of Nature" discusses natural constants such as the speed of light and the surprisingly complicated question, "What color are the objects around the universe?" (Many published astronomical photographs show colors that correspond not to what an observer in space might see, but to phenomena the astronomer wishes to display graphically, such as the relative temperature of the objects portrayed.) "The Meaning of Life" addresses various conditions that seem to be necessary for life to evolve in a planetary system, including the "Goldilocks" question of the right temperature to allow liquid water on a planet's surface. "When the Universe Turns Bad" discusses cosmic disasters, notably the earth's being incinerated as the sun becomes (in several billion years) a red giant. "Science and Culture" looks at the sometimes uncomprehending reaction of the public to theories and discoveries; in Tyson's opinion, a wider knowledge of simple math might solve many of the most bizarre responses. Finally, "Science and God" touches on thoseareas where science and religion appear to compete for the same turf: notably, the origin of the universe, and whether it betrays evidence of design. Smoothly entertaining, full of fascinating tidbits and frequently humorous, these essays show Tyson as one of today's best popularizers of science.
Anthony Doerr - Boston Sunday Globe
“It's more imperative than ever that we find writers who can explain not only what we're discovering, but how we're discovering it. Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of those writers.”
Sky and Telescope
“Characteristically fun and jaunty.”
Wook Kim - Entertainment Weekly
“Tyson proves that no topic is too big or small for his scrutiny.... [He] tackles an impressive range of subjects... with great humor, humility, andmost importanthumanity.”
Angela Gunn - USAToday.com
“Dr. Tyson has a grand time dissecting certain forms of foolishness. Get it, plan to savor it”
Roy E. Perry - The Tennessean
“Tyson comes across as having an excellent grasp of the current state of astrophysics, cosmology, chemistry and other scientific disciplines... he conveys knowledge clearly to the nonspecialist, often with ingratiating humor and wit.”